Spice up your diet for a longer life, study suggests

New research involving nearly half a million volunteers in China found that the more often people ate spicy foods, the lower their risk of dying during the course of the study. (Mark Ralston / AFP-Getty Images)
New research involving nearly half a million volunteers in China found that the more often people ate spicy foods, the lower their risk of dying during the course of the study. (Mark Ralston / AFP-Getty Images)

If you like eating spicy foods, researchers have some good news: You’re likely to have more years to enjoy them.

Compared to people who ate spicy foods less than once a week, those who at them at least three to five times per week were 14% less likely to die while they were being tracked by the international research team. In addition, those who ate spicy meals once or twice a week were 10% less likely to die during the study period, according to a report published this week in the medical journal BMJ.

Scientists have long recognized that spices have beneficial health effects. In particular, capsaicin – the ingredient that gives chili peppers their bite – has been shown to fight inflammation, high blood pressure, obesity and cancer, among other ills. Experts also speculate that the antibacterial properties of spices might improve health by influencing the community of microbes in the gut.

To try to get a better handle on some of these questions, an international group of researchers turned to 487,375 people who were participating in the China Kadoorie Biobank study, an effort that aims to track the causes of chronic diseases in the world’s most populous country. All of the participants were between the ages of 30 and 79 when they entered the study, and they were tracked for an average of 7.2 years.

Upon joining the study, the volunteers answered detailed questions about their health history, lifestyle choices and eating habits – including how often they ate spicy foods. The researchers synced up their answers with death records to see whether they could find any correlations between spice consumption and causes of death.

Overall, they found that the more often spicy foods were eaten, the more likely they were to be alive at the end of 2013. This was true even after taking age, gender and other factors into account.

But not all causes of death appeared to be influenced by spice consumption, according to the study. Compared to those who ate spicy foods less than once a week, those who ate them six or seven days a week were 29% less likely to die of respiratory diseases, 22% less likely to die of ischemic heart disease, 8% less likely to die of cancer, and 14% less likely to die of all other causes.

When the researchers analyzed women separately from men, they found that women who ate spicy foods most often were 45% less likely to die of infections compared to women who ate them less than once a week. There was no such link for men.

Nor did the researchers see any association between spice consumption and the risk of death due to diabetes or cerebrovascular disease in either men or women.

The source of dietary spiciness seemed to make a difference, the researchers found. Among the study volunteers, those who reported eating fresh chili peppers saw a stronger link between the frequency of spice consumption and the risk of death due to cancer, heart disease and diabetes than did volunteers who ate only dried chili pepper, chili sauce, chili oil or other spices, according to the study. The difference could be due to the fact that fresh chili pepper contains more capsaicin and nutrients like potassium and vitamins C, A, K and B6, the researchers noted.

It’s possible that at least some of the association between spicy foods and health could be due to the fact people who are already ill might prefer foods that are bland. But the researchers noted that they did not include people in the analysis if they had cancer, heart disease or a history of stroke at the start of the study.

Although the study included nearly half a million volunteers who were tracked for a total of 3.5 million person-years, the researchers emphasized that they couldn’t show a causal relationship between eating spicy foods and living longer. Still, they said the findings from this and other studies could help scientists devise functional health foods, including herbal supplements.

Originally Published on: http://www.latimes.com/science/la-sci-sn-spicy-foods-and-risk-of-death-20150804-story.html

Apple is in talks to launch its own virtual network service in the US and Europe

Apple is in talks to launch a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) service in the US and Europe, Business Insider has learned.

Sources close to Apple say that the company is privately trialling an MVNO service in the US, but is also currently in talks with telecoms companies in Europe about bringing the service there too.

An MVNO is a virtual carrier network which sees technology companies lease space from established carriers and sell it on to customers directly.

Here’s how an Apple MVNO will work: Instead of paying your carrier every month, you’ll pay Apple directly for data, calls, and texts. Apple then provides you with everything you used to get from your carrier, but the Apple SIM switches between carriers to get the best service. The telecom companies auction capacity to Apple so that it can run the service.

If Apple is testing the service then there’s no guarantee that it will launch, and if it does, it’s not going to roll out anytime soon. Telecoms sources say that Apple is looking long-term with its MVNO, and could take at least five years to fully launch the service. Apple has been in talks with telecoms companies for years over its MVNO plans, and it’s an “open secret” amongst carriers that a virtual Apple network is on the way.

Earlier today Business Insider reported that Apple is currently testing a service called iCloud Voicemail which will automatically transcribe voicemail messages using Siri.

It makes sense that Apple wants to take control of voicemail before it launches an MVNO. Right now, your voicemails are stored with your carrier. Once Apple is taking money from customers for data and calls, customers won’t have direct relationships with carriers. Once Apple launches iCloud Voicemail, you won’t have that problem, and will be free to sign up to Apple’s MVNO.

There have been rumours about an Apple MVNO for years. TechCrunch reports that Apple filed a patent back in 2006 for an MVNO service. It has since filed to extend that patent.

Apple has already signalled its intent to become the gateway to carriers when it launched the Apple SIM in 2014. It allowed customers to switch between networks through their device using a SIM card that could connect to lots of different carriers. Right now it’s only available for the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, but future versions of the SIM card could be used to launch an Apple MVNO for iPhones.

Google is already testing its very own MVNO. Project Fi is only available for the Nexus 6 smartphone in the US, but it is a signal that the tech company sees an MVNO as a potential area for expansion in the future.

But not every MVNO is successful, however. Gigaom pointed out back in 2012 that both Disney and ESPN both tried to launch their own MVNO services, but later had to shut them down.

We reached out to Apple for comment on this story and will update if we hear back.

Originally Published on BI

Solar powered palm trees boost Dubai’s smart plans

Solar powered Wi-Fi stations shaped like palm trees are the latest innovation in Dubai’s quest to become one of the smartest cities in the world.

solar_palm

The Smart Palm’s fronds are topped with photovoltaic panels which take in and store energy from the sun during the day.

Each palm offers high-speed Wi-Fi up to a range of 53 metres, supporting up to 50 users at a time. It also has phone and tablet charging points offering two-and-a-half times faster charging speeds than a regular plug.

As well as powering its facilities each palm lights up at night. They also provide information on the weather, local attractions and have facilities for charging up mobile devices.

Dubai Municipality plans to install 103 of the six metre tall palms in across the city at popular outdoor locations. Umm Suqeim Beach and Za’abeel Park are the first two locations for the Smart Palms which provide free wireless internet access.

The initiative – part of the UAE Cabinet Year of Innovation project – has been jointly put together by Dubai Municipality, Smart Palm creators D Idea Media, Du, Sun Tab Solar Energy and Promo Tech Gulf Industry.

Hussain Lootah, the director general of Dubai Municipality, said: “Under the guidance of our leaders, Dubai has developed an international reputation as a place for technology and innovation.

“Through Smart Palm, the public will be able to benefit from free direct access to the internet while providing valuable public information covering a range of topics including weather forecasts and orientation guides.

“Most importantly, these structures are entirely self-sufficient thanks to their mono crystal solar panels, which provide up to 21 per cent efficiency.”

Two screens on each palm offer weather details, local news, a navigation application, general Dubai information — and even a selfie camera.

Other venues soon be included in the scheme include Dubai Creek Park, Al Mamzar Park and Al Barsha Pond Park.

Source: utilities-me.com

NASA Finds Closest Earth Twin Yet in Haul of 500 Alien Planets

It may not be Earth’s exact twin, but it’s a pretty close cousin.

NASA’s Kepler space telescope has spotted the most Earth-like alien planet yet discovered — a world called Kepler-452b that’s just slightly bigger than our own and orbits a sunlike star at about the same distance Earth circles the sun.

“This is the first possibly rocky, habitable planet around a solar-type star,” Jeff Coughlin, Kepler research scientist at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute in Mountain View, California, said during a news briefing today (July 23).

“We’ve gotten closer and closer to finding a true twin like the Earth,” Coughlin added. “We haven’t found it yet, but every step is important because it shows we’re getting closer and closer. And this current planet, 452b, is really the closest yet.”

Scientists have discovered other small, potentially habitable exoplanets, but those previous finds orbited red dwarfs, stars much smaller and cooler than the sun.

Meet Kepler-452b, Earth’s closest twin

Kepler-452b lies 1,400 light-years away, and is the only planet known in its solar system. It’s about 60 percent wider than Earth, which gives it a “better than even” chance of being rocky, researchers said. The planet is probably about five times more massive than our own, making it a so-called “super Earth.” It likely possesses a thick atmosphere, lots of water and active volcanoes.

The exoplanet completes one orbit every 385 days, so its year is only slightly longer than Earth’s. And Kepler-452b circles a sunlike star that’s just 10 percent bigger and 20 percent brighter than the one that hangs in Earth’s sky.

“It would feel a lot like home, from the standpoint of the sunshine that you would experience,” said Jon Jenkins, Kepler data analysis lead at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. (Jenkins led the team that discovered Kepler-452b.)

But Kepler-452b’s star appears to be considerably older than the sun — 6 billion years, compared to 4.5 billion years.

“It’s awe-inspiring to consider that this planet has spent 6 billion years in the habitable zone of its star; longer than Earth,” Jenkins said in a statement, referring to that just-right range of distances that could support the existence of liquid water on a world’s surface. “That’s substantial opportunity for life to arise, should all the necessary ingredients and conditions for life exist on this planet.”

Kepler-452b’s existence was announced with the release of the latest Kepler catalog, which includes 521 new planet “candidates” dug out of the data the spacecraft gathered during its first four years of operation. (Kepler, which launched in March 2009, stopped observing under its original planet-hunting mission in May 2013, after the second of its four orientation-maintaining reaction wheels failed.)

Eleven of the 521 newfound candidates are, like Kepler-452b, less than twice as wide as Earth and reside in their host stars’ habitable zone, researchers said.

Kepler’s total haul of potential exoplanets is now nearly 4,700. Just 1,030 of these finds have been confirmed to date, but mission scientists expect that the vast majority — 90 percent or so — will end up being the real deal, just like Kepler-452b.

During its original mission, Kepler stared at more than 150,000 stars simultaneously, looking for tiny brightness dips caused by planets crossing these stars’ faces. Kepler’s dataset is therefore huge, and it has taken researchers a while to analyze it and address the main goal of the $600 million mission — determining how common Earth-like planets are across the Milky Way galaxy.

Analyses of Kepler observations to date suggest that about 20 percent of the Milky Way’s stars harbor at least one rocky planet in the habitable zone, but this number will be revised or refined with additional study, researchers said.

“Continued investigation of the other candidates in this catalog and one final run of the Kepler science pipeline will help us find the smallest and coolest planets,” the SETI Institute’s Joseph Twicken, lead scientific programmer for the Kepler mission, said in a different statement. “Doing so will allow us to better gauge the prevalence of habitable worlds.”

Indeed, the team plans to release the eighth Kepler catalog next year. Continued software improvements and the knowledge gained during previous analyses of the dataset should lead to more exciting finds by the mission science team — and by researchers who study the publicly archived data in the future, Coughlin said.

“I really expect that discoveries will be coming from Kepler for the next several decades,” he said.

Kepler: NASA’s prolific planet hunter

Kepler’s original observations required tremendously precise pointing — an ability the telescope lost with the second reaction-wheel failure in May 2013.

But Kepler isn’t done observing the heavens. In May 2014, NASA approved a new mission called K2, in which the spacecraft is studying a variety of cosmic objects and phenomena, including distant supernova explosions, comets and asteroids in our own solar system and exoplanets. And a compromised Kepler can indeed still spot alien worlds: NASA announced the K2 mission’s first exoplanet find in December 2014.

The first exoplanet was spotted in 1992, and researchers have discovered nearly 2,000 confirmed alien worlds in the 23 years since then (the exact number varies depending on which database is consulted). The Kepler spacecraft is responsible for more than half of these finds.

Originally published on Space.com.